49ers WR Brandon Lloyd enjoying return to NFL
This is a 2014 photo of Brandon Lloyd of the San Francisco 49ers NFL football team. This image reflects the San Francisco 49ers active roster as of Thursday, May 22, 2014 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) is videoed as he throws during an NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) talks with teammates Frank Gore, left, and Vernon Davis during an NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during an NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Brandon Lloyd returned to the San Francisco 49ers to finish what he started.
After taking a year off from football, Lloyd said he came back to the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2003 because nobody else could offer what he wanted: a chance at redemption and a Super Bowl title.
“When I was younger, I was in love with the winning attitude and culture that the team had. And when I was finally able to play for the team, no one had that,” said Lloyd, whose first stint with the 49ers was from 2003-05. “Now the team does have that, and San Francisco has always held a special place in my heart. And so I didn’t explore any other options. I wanted to return to San Francisco and maybe bring a certain amount of closure to my career.”
Lloyd has been a major addition through the first week of training camp, showing off a smooth route-running ability that teammates call the best among the receivers. He has mostly shied away from talking about his comeback this summer, saying his focus is on making the team – and it still is.
But Lloyd finally began to open up about his journey back to the NFL. He said he wants to help mentor the team’s young receivers and cornerbacks while showing he still has what it takes to be an elite wide receiver at age 33.
He caught 105 passes for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three years in the league with San Francisco. That included leading the team with 48 receptions, 733 yards receiving and five TD catches in 2005.
Lloyd then played two seasons with Washington and one in Chicago before stops with Denver, St. Louis and New England. He was cut by the Patriots in March 2013 and didn’t join any other team despite catching 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
Lloyd signed a one-year contract with San Francisco in April to end his sabbatical, which included starring in a direct-to-DVD zombie movie titled After Effect. Back on the field for the 49ers, he is learning an offense all over again.
Lloyd said his goals during training are the same as they’ve always been: not to let the playbook defeat him, give maximum effort every time and make the plays when called upon.
“I put the same amount of pressure on myself as I did when I was younger,” he said.
Teammates on both sides of the ball credit Lloyd’s precise routes more than anything.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he can count on Lloyd to create separation – even when it looks like he won’t – and be where he’s supposed to be on time.
“He has pretty easy body language to read,” Kaepernick said. “And for the most part, he’s open by a step or two. So that makes it a lot easier.”
Lloyd said his skills will just add to the “diversity” the 49ers have at receiver with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and fellow offseason addition Stevie Johnson. Toss tight end Vernon Davis into the mix, and San Francisco has five players with 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Even still, rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson said Lloyd is the hardest player to cover on the 49ers. He said Lloyd never tips his route in practice, which has helped him learn more about his own position.
“I haven’t played in the league,” Johnson said, “but I can promise you he’s probably the best in the league at doing that.”